Busted Flat In Idaho

Busted Flat In Grangeville, Idaho. 101 miles away from where I’ve lately been calling “home”, with no idea how or when I’ll be climbing back into my creaky yet comfortable bed. Here’s how it’s it all going down, in real time.

I’ve been holed up in a lovely cabin on a pine forest on the side of a mountain in McCall, Idaho since the beginning of September. And let’s just say that the rural life is agreeing with me, and washing calm over me in much the same way that the chilled waters of Payette lake washed over my tootsies on so many autumn afternoons, before the whole thing turned to ice. I’ve taken to calling this place McCalm, and oddly none of the locals seem to have heard this one before. So Im laying claim to the creation of yet another enduring nickname. It’s a fun little skill I’ve been developing and deploying for years now, and proud I am to have discovered it. 

Now one of the limitations of living outside of a modern metropolis is the great distance one must travel to partake in any sort of conspicuous consumption. All my needs can be met in the small town of McCalm with just a 20 minute drive down the mountian. There are two grocery stores. One of them even has a little camping and hunting wares department, including a full-service firearms counter. I’ve yet to get too close to that one, but each time I step inside to pick up some provisions, I venture just a little bit closer to the collection of cold hard steel. If you’re interested, you should google “Idaho gun laws”. It’s only the slightest but of an exaggeration to say there are none.

I also have easy access to a True Value franchise hardware store, two ski / bicycle shops, even a handful of decent coffee shops and a lone bookstore. Culture! Add to that 3 (THREE!!!) different places that sell what they refer to in these parts as pizza” and it’s almost like being back in the Big  Apple. So, like I said, needs can be met rather easily. If I want access to the cornucopia of cheapness that are Dollar Stores, a necessary staple in the sticks, I have to drive 25 miles either south or west, to the even tinier towns of Cascade and Meadows. Beyond that though, to access any sort of big box store, art supplies, ethnic food and any sort of national chain that’s not a Subway, I’m left with two options: 106 long and winding miles through immense canyons carved by the America’s longest continuous class 5 rapids of the Payette and Snake

Rivers  south to Boise, or 177 miles north through more canyons and peaks and prairies and massive rock formations to the twin hamlets of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington.  Today I chose the latter.

It was a gorgeous day for a drive and so I wondered aloud my lifetime mantra of “What’s the Worst That Could Happen?” and I hit the open road. The drive up was gorgeous and mostly uneventful, save for the oncoming   Idaho State Trooper who gently lit up his flashers to alert me that I might have been slightly over the posted speed limit. Whoops. But he did not turn around, and after more than a few long breathless moments, I stopped looking back. Don’t look back. You can never look back. 

Since I bought my last motorcycle in 2018, I’ve kept in touch with, and have been developing a budding friendship with its previous owner. When he found out I ended up planted in the fertile soil of Idaho, he sent me a note that said “if you ever find yourself in Grangeville, ID, my friend Mike Gosselaar owns a Powersports dealership there. He was Ricky Carmichael’s mechanic and we were teammates on the Honda Supercross team back in the 90’s. If you’re ever over that way, stop into Gosslaar Powersports and tell him I said hello. He’s big into the adventure riding scene (off road riding) and will hip you to some great trails!”  Ricky Carmichael is considered the GOAT of modern day dirt bike racing, and was on top of the championship podiums for most of the years I obsessively followed the sport when I first got into motorcycles so I knew that I’d eventually want make that connection for myself. 

On the way through Grangeville this morning the shop was closed, but on my return journey this evening  I noticed the lights on so I pulled into the parking lot and knocked on the door. He looked a little suspicious of me, and seeing as I was a stranger in hot pink overalls with a unicorn patch embroidered to the chest and a bright yellow Father John Misty hoodie on, all topped by my two-toned wild mane to match, I really couldn’t blame him  But when I explained who I was, and who sent me, he welcomed me in with arms as open as any I’ve encountered n the midst of this global pandemic. And it felt great to be connecting with a kindred spirit.

He showed me a slew of killer bikes and a variety of wild machines in varying states of being transformed into snow-traversing monsters, and we shot the proverbial shit for close to an hour, with the conversation winding up with an invite for me to come back up on my bike when the weather gets good enough again to do some riding and camping and more shooting of the shit. The handgun on his workbench that had caught my careful eye as soon as I entered let me know we might end up shooting more than shit. And then I thought to myself “Sheeeeee-it THAT’s how they catch dinner up in these parts. RAD!”

So we said our goodbyes, for now, and I got back in my car and drove to the gas station next door to fill it’s tank, and empty my own. When I turned the key again a big puff of smoke came out from under the hood and I got a quick and nasty case of the “Uh-Ohs”! I managed to limp my hooptie back over to his shop and tapped my knuckles upon the door once again and this time I said “Help?” Like a true gentleman, and a real American to whom unity is more than a political buzzword, he happily obliged and told me to pop the hood so he could wrap his huge mechanic brain around my dilemma. With his legendary expertise, he quickly ascertained that my alternator belt was broken, and reached his well worn workman hand down into the engine and pulled out a torn and battered serpentine lash of rubber and handed it to me. I accepted his offering with all the grace of a man being handed a live rattlesnake, but I tried to keep my cool and just nodded.

I don’t think I fooled him for a second so he grabbed his phone and called a friend, and then another friend and then another. The local auto parts shop was long closed for the day, as are the ones up in Lewis and Clark-Ville. So tomorrow morning, Sunday, I’ll be standing outside of the NAPA auto parts store with this limp strip of burnt rubber in my hand, hoping against hope that they will be able to supply a replacement. And then hoping even harder that Mike and his crew of real manly men can wrap it back around the precious bits of my alternator and engine and get my whip running again, at least in shape enough for the 101 mile journey back to McCalm. But if it’s not in stock (which their website says it isnt), I’ll likely be ensconced at this Super 8 Motel til Tuesday. At least I’ve got a toothbrush and a notebook and a few pens. And this trusty old iPhone that I’m banging this missive out on right now. And, as long as this overactive imagination doesn’t fail me, I’ll never be alone. All praise be to the most high Allah for this ever-winding life of mine. And for all the friends I’ve made along this twisted journey of life I somehow continue to keep living.

On the eve of our nation’s most important holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, I’m choosing to take this as yet another reminder in a long line of reminders of how important it is to (almost) always be nice to (almost) everybody!

What’s the worst that could happen? Literally nothing. Take it from me: As you go through life my friends, whatever be your goal, keep your eyes upon the donut, and not upon the hole.

To be continued…


If you should find yourself at a loss for what to do with whatever spare cash ya might have in your piggy bank and would like to finance further adventures and these semi-literate musings, feel free to fire off a few pesos to jake@rocksoff.com (PayPal) or @jake-szufnarowski (Venmo)